DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Rosa Holloway
Photo and text used with permission of Rosa Holloway

When Rosa Holloway was first diagnosed with Stage 3B Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) in 2008, she was shocked. She led an active life, with a regular gym routine, and had a history of running monthly 5 and 10k races. After her initial diagnosis, a friend recommended she visit the nearby Moffitt Cancer Center for a second opinion. "Thank God, I followed her advice," Rosa said. Her first oncologist had given her a 2% chance of survival and recommended only chemotherapy as a course of treatment. At Moffitt, her doctor told her, "It does not look good, but we have gotten people through in worse condition than you." These are the words that Rosa repeated to herself throughout her new treatment regimen—especially after her diagnosis and its severity brought home how fragile life was and how quickly it can be taken away.

Two and a half years after Rosa's first successful round of treatment, Rosa's cancer recurred. Radiation therapy successfully removed the tumor, but the cancer was back 10 months later. At this point, Rosa was willing to try anything to get rid of her cancer, even surgery to remove a portion of her lung. Because of the high risks associated with this kind of surgery post-radiation, her oncologist kept looking for other options. When he contacted Rosa to suggest radiofrequency ablation, Rosa didn't know what to expect. "I had heard about it before, but I had no idea how that would work for lung cancer. This was something that was used for heart treatments, at least, that was all I had ever heard," Rosa explained. In spite of this uncertainty, Rosa decided to pursue treatment right away, without even a separate consultation with the specialist: "The way I saw it, I was running out of options, and I was not about to drag things out," she said. "I wanted the treatment done and the cancer gone as soon as possible." Today, Rosa sings the praises of her treatment and doctors: "Radiofrequency ablation—what a beautiful thing. There were no side effects, no pain, and my cancer was gone...I will be forever grateful and thankful to Moffitt and its doctors. Their dedication to their patients, innovative thinking, and care for their patients is very special."

In January 2017, Rosa will have been cancer-free for 5 years and has chosen to use this time to support other patients going through the same scenario she did. "I believe, in order to be a survivor, you have to be very proactive. Being proactive and having the right team of doctors gives a patient a much better chance to get through their disease", she said. Through Moffitt's Latte Program, Rosa met Joan Tashbar, another Stage B NSCLC survivor. Together they started a small cancer support group—they knew from their experience that, when people receive a cancer diagnosis, they want to talk to other people, and it's much easier for a cancer patient to talk to somebody who has walked the same walk. "As survivors, we can give support that not even loved ones can give," Rosa explained. Rosa and Joan also started a non-profit organization to fund cancer research, the Circle of Hope for Cancer Research. All monies raised go directly to cancer research.

Rosa Holloway
Joan Tashbar (left) and Rosa Holloway (right)
Photo and text used with permission of Rosa Holloway

Rosa began serving as a peer reviewer for the Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) in 2015. She values her work as a peer reviewer because the LCRP and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs enable the kind of research funding that would not have been available from existing funding agencies. In particular, the LCRP makes an effort to fund work that will benefit the active-duty and retired military population, a unique goal for a funding organization. When asked about her role on the review panel, Rosa said, "As a peer reviewer for the LCRP, I give insights to researchers that only a survivor can give. Contributing like this makes me feel like I am being helpful in some small way in finding a cure for cancer."

Rosa plans to continue channeling her efforts into her support group and cancer research, "I feel there is a reason why I'm here today—I need to give thanks and give back."

Last updated Tuesday, November 29, 2016